(featured image: David Yowe)
We gather ’round the table yet again, not to celebrate Thanksgiving, but to celebrate the sport everyone knows and loves. We give thanks for IMSA and the joy it brings us on a yearly basis. The team discusses three questions:
- Who was your MVP of the season and why?
- Best pass of the season?
- What was your favorite/best moment of the season?
- This literally the dumbest/worst intro to a post I have ever written.
- My MVP vote goes to the driver pairing that stood head and shoulders above any other pairing in all classes – Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet. The two led a second half surge that won the Team and Manufacturer’s Championships for Porsche, and the Driver’s Championship for Pilet. Winning four of the final five races is no easy feat in the highly competitive GTLM class. While newly-designed Michelin tires certainly aided the Porsche dominance from Road America onward, the Tandy-Pilet duo consistently beat their teammates, Bergmeister and Bamber. The 911 outscored the 912 in every race but Watkins Glen.
- How often do you see a GTLM car pass a DP on track, and then pull away? I could hardly believe my eyes when Nick Tandy passed Eric Curran at a water-logged Road Atlanta, then continued to turn lap times three to six seconds faster than the trailing DP. The pass led to the first overall win for a GT car in a major endurance race since 2003. It was a pass that made history, and it will not be soon forgotten.
- The GTD battle in the closing minutes of Sebring was my favorite moment of the season. Mario Farnbacher in the Team Seattle Porsche had charged through the field after an unscheduled pit stop to take the lead from the TRG-AMR Aston Martin with about an hour to go. But Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Viper was right behind him, pressuring him hard. With ten minutes remaining, Farnbacher made a mistake and went off track at Turn 10. Bleekemolen had victory in sight, but his engine gave up with five minutes of racing left. Farnbacher’s mistake was redeemed as Team Seattle took their first win in the TUDOR Championship and the 10th win at Sebring for team owner Alex Job. Honorable mention for best moment goes to Magnus Racing finding a dead possum lodged in the front of their Porsche at Daytona.
- Dane Cameron. If winning the GTD championship last year was any indication of the man’s awesome talent, he flourished even more when he was put into a championship winning program like Action Express. The Whelen crew had a rather tepid start to the season, but when they found their groove, suddenly you have four extremely potent Corvette DPs in contention for a win. And Dane Cameron was the spearhead of that #31. Going toe to toe with Fittipaldi and Barbosa in Road America and beating them convincingly thanks to speed and guile is a portent of things to come from him.
- Probably my PaOTY would be the decisive slash that took Christian Fittipaldi for the lead at Mosp- I mean CTMP. Fitti was showing his decades of experience as a racing driver as he shadowed Ricky Taylor (who was driving really well, by the way). But on the run to Moss Corner, the #10 lost momentum, and Fittipaldi bared his fangs. Ricky kept the door ajar on the first apex, Fitti helped his way in. Ricky thought he could close the door but he was too late. Christian was through and away.
- I would have to say this is Dane Cameron’s year for me. My favorite moments were the Duel in Elkhart Lake, where Dane had his A game and was banging wheels with his teammate for track position. Sure he showed his displeasure to Elton Sawyer on the radio, but heck it was good fun to watch! The second one also involved Dane, and this time, it was the duel of two established young guns in the TUDOR Championship. 12 minutes of frantic action precipitated from tire drama from the Coyote chassised Action Express cars compared to the Dallara chassised WTR car. If it caused John Hindhaugh to scream his head off in the IMSA Radio broadcast, I consider that mission success.
- MVP of the season has to be Ozz Negri. Ozz was clutch for the Michael Shank Racing crew. Running the only pro-am driver lineup in the prototype class they were behind the 8-ball a lot of times. The further the season went on the more John Pew improved though which bodes well for next season. Ozz’s stints at most races were impressive, often setting fast laps when he was on track.
- Favorite pass of the 2015 season goes to Bill Sweedler and Dion Von Moltke and their battle in the first 30 minutes of the VIR round of the Tudor United Sportscar race. DvM in the Audi was running 1st in class and Sweedler in the Ferrari was running 2nd at the time. For 5-6 laps, Sweedler worked Dion, trying to find a way around. Sweedler went deep, way deep, into the brake zone into turn 1. Ran wide on the exit which allowed Von Moltke to pull the old over under. The two went side by side though turn 2 before Von Moltke yielded to the Ferrari and allowed Sweedler to take the lead of the race. After the pit stop, and driver changes, same two cars, this time with Haase in the Audi and Townsend Bell in the Ferrari ran nose to tail for a while. This was role reversal from the pas in the first stint. Traffic played a part. A GTLM car compromised the racing line of the leading Ferrari and opened the door for the Audi to sneak on the inside going into turn 1. The Ferrari was able to hold its own and maintain the lead.
- Favorite moment for the 2015 season goes to the final 5 minutes of the IMSA round at Road America, both races. In the Continental Tire Sportscar Championship round we had two fan favorites, Spensor Pumpelly and Ryan Eversley running 1-2. On the final lap, Spencer Pumpelly’s Porsche Cayman ran out of fuel which Ryan Eversley to take the checkerd flag in his Honda Civic. Fan’s were very happy to see Eversley win but equally disappointed to see Pumpelly come up short. The following day we had a spectacular last battle for 2nd place in GTLM and drama in the PC class. On the final lap Conor Daly spun the #38 car which allowed the #11 to take the win. If the #38 would have won that round it would have been huge for Wisconson, as Daly’s co-driver is a Sheboygen, WI native, James French. In GTLM, the 2nd place battle between the Porsche and the Ferrari eventually lead to contact in the 2nd to last turn sending both cars into the grass. The Ferrari got the worst of it and the Porsche took 2nd place which lead to the first Porsche 1-2 of the season.
- MVP goes to Christina Neilsen. She did not win the GTD Driver’s Championship, but she was right there in the fight the entire season. Competing in a world that is still male-heavy, it was truly impressive to watch her not back down and take the fight to everyone in the class. Keep in mind she also ran in PWC and never seemed to get burnt out as the long seasons went on. I vote we stop labeling drivers like Christina as a “Female Driver” and just call them all “Race Car Drivers”. Because of how competitive/impressive Christina was in 2015, steps are being taken in the right direction there. She’s a great race car driver.
- Agree 100% with Doug. Watching the GTLM Porsche of Nick Tandy pass Eric Curran was my favorite on the season. The pass itself was not that impressive, but the fact that it was a GT car getting around a top prototype was amazing and really shows how impressive the Porsche was on the season.
- Best moment on the season for me did not even take place on the track, or with a driver who raced in IMSA during the 2015 season. In August Marshall Pruett posted an update on Memo Gidley’s recovery from the horrific crash he had with the Risi Ferrari during the 2014 Daytona 24. Gidley said this to close out the article:
“It’s little victories, right? It felt like it wasn’t so long ago where I was lying face down on the massage table eating breakfast, or any meal, for that matter, because I couldn’t sit without huge pain,” he recounted.
“Now, I wake up every morning, have breakfast with my lady, we go out to dinner…we’ve been going to the movies a lot. It’s pretty cool having gone through the worst part to get to where everything’s pretty much returned to normal. We still have a few obstacles to clear, but I don’t think we’re far from putting the whole ordeal behind us.”
Racing is a fantastic sport, but also extremely dangerous. Seeing his determination to get back in a car in truly inspiring. My second favorite moment on the season was watching the entire racing world rally around the horrible situation after Justin Wilson died. The racers lost one of their own and to see the entire motorsports world – from F1 to NASCAR rally together and what safety decisions come out of the incident will be one of the most important moments in motorsport history.